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Back to basics

In tough budget times, schools should drop state-required tasks

The (Albany) Democrat-Herald

Legislators would do well to listen to the Albany Public Schools on the subject of making tax dollars go farther and having the schools work on what counts. Administrators in the school system have made up a list of tasks that Oregon requires the schools to perform but that make little sense at a time when the school year has to be cut back because revenue is not keeping up with the cost.

The requirements can be found in Division 22 of the Oregon Administrative Rules. It says there, for example, that each school district shall implement plans for career education (in) grades K through 12, with goals for each instructional program and, where applicable, goals for support programs.

What kind of nonsense is this? Why do we have to have career education in grade school, let alone kindergarten? The instruction experts in the Albany district have this sensible recommendation: Change the focus of career education to grades 6-12, allowing elementary students to focus on core academic skill development. Isn't that what grade school is for?

Another rule demands that the state each year collect all kinds of information on schools and their students and then issue a report card. We have just gone through one of these rituals again. The Albany district has several recommendations on report cards. The main one is to align this state requirement with the additional federal mandates under the No Child Left Behind act. Of course!

No sensible state would make schools go through two rounds of annual reports. If we have to have this constant reporting ' and the results are not persuasive that it's useful ' let's compile these reports just once.

The Albany recommendations call for drastic changes in the certificate of initial mastery. Among them: Limit the testing to English, math and science and align this with the federal requirements. Further, Albany would do away with the certificate of advanced mastery and the numerous record-keeping and other requirements that go along with this.

Some of the elements of the program may be useful if they are optional, but they should not be required. These are mere examples.

The list of changes in state rules recommended by the Albany School District staff is far longer. Copies have been given to mid-valley legislators. Superintendent Pat Bedore says that while the changes would not save lots of money, they would allow the schools greater flexibility in educating students. If the Legislature is serious about getting more education out of the Oregon school system, it should put these changes into law.